Single book prices and the elimination of the ‘tabelle’ – a type of surtax applied by distributors – are not good news for bookstores in French-speaking Belgium or for the book industry in general, according to Patrick Moller, head of Dilibel distributors, a branch of the Hachette group. In an interview with l’Echo daily, published on Friday, he said he was “really worried about the viability of bookstores within five to 10 years from now.”
“Their economic equation is untenable in the final analysis; between 2007 and 2017, our businesses’ wage costs increased by 22%, rents by 30%, and electricity by 40%,” Moller said. “At the same time, average book prices have gone down and the book market shrinks by 1% to 2% each year. (…) We run the risk of bringing the whole system down for a price reduction of one euro per book.”
Moller argued that the new law on book prices would not have the expected effect of turning readers away from online purchases. “Online trade has revolutionized the music and cinema industry, and if we’re not careful, book sales can suffer the same fate,” he warned.
“The future of the book industry in Belgium is its ability to reach all homes within 48 hours,” Moller argued, praising the “diversity of actors” as a “real asset”.